By Yaseen Kippie
Organisers of the popular Al Ansaar Souk are at the centre of a storm, after a performance by the internationally renowned Muslim rap group Deen Squad did not go down well with the Durban audience. The Muslim rap duo from Ottawa, Canada was touted as a headline act at this year’s event, but their performance was cut short following a backlash from souk visitors on social media at the weekend.
Deen Squad, whose videos on Youtube have garnered more then 2 million hits, may sound like your average rap group, but their message has a positive message. They have described themselves as having an “urban hip-hop genre with core tenets of spirituality and values in the effort to rouse appreciation of the contemporary Muslim identity in today’s youth.”
But many Durbanites were left incensed after seeing Deen Squad’s high energy performance, with some accusing the group of “leading the youth astray.” One souk visitor, in a post that has since gone viral on social media, said she was left shocked when she entered the Souk’s outdoor entertainment stage to find a ‘nightclub-like’ scene taking place inside.
“Deen Squad had taken to the stage with music that literally pounded against my insides to the point that I was certain I would vomit. Muslim Fathers reclined on chairs while Muslim daughters in headscarves stood at the front row of the stage and violently danced alongside Muslim men,” she wrote.
The post sparked off a torrent of criticism of the Al Ansaar Souk on social media, with the Jamiatul Ulema going as far as calling for a boycott of the trade fair. Subsequently, a number of stallholders decided to pull out of the event, expressing their anger at the manner in which the performance was carried out. The Jamiatul Ulema said in a statement:
The recent shocking events at the Al Ansaar Souk has triggered an outpouring of condemnation from the Muslim public and especially the events of last night which the Ulama have been cautioning against for many years now.
However, the recent events now bring home the reality of the dangers of attending such events.
Besides the music and dancing that has taken place, this event is an arena where time and money is wasted and where shamelessness, free intermingling and zina of the eyes and ears very often takes place with grave and precarious consequences.
It is ironic that whilst the Souk is advertised in the guise of an Islamic event, the conditions there are generally saturated with sin, which creates an atmosphere for the blatant disregard of the Shari’ah and mock the Sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam)
Representative of the Al-Ansaar Foundation, Irfan Bux, the main organiser of the souk, conceded that he made a mistake in inviting Deen Squad.
“We had to cut their performances at the Souk due to the backlash from the Durban community on social media.”
Bux says the decision to invite Deen Squad “was based on their large following,” but things quickly went sour shortly after their performance at the Souk on the 23rd of December, as a furore on social media ensued with regards to videos circulating of their performance.
The main concern from people was that their performance “replicated pop and rap culture.”
“What was alarming was a group of youth in front of audience chanting them on and standing up,” Bux said.
The Al Ansaar Foundation later issued an apology to the public.
We, the management of the Alansaar Foundation unreservedly apologise to the Muslim community for hosting the Deen Squad who performed at the souk on Saturday. Our expectations and engagement of the Deen Squad were based purely on international prominence and their reputation within wider audiences over the world.
We fully acknowledge that the show was not in keeping with Islamic standards and ran counter to our expectations. We ask you, the community, for maaf and above all beseech Allah to forgive us. We further extend our sincere apologies to the stakeholders, sponsors and all participants in the souk trade fair. We further confirm that all further shows have been canceled and the Deen Squad have departed.
But other social media commentators pointed to a deeper problem of conservatism amongst the community and ulama. Amongst those who tweeted was Deen Squad member Karter Zaher: